Information Builders Shifts its Focus to I-business

Marking its silver anniversary, Information Builders (New York) has unveiled a new global corporate strategy that looks to capitalize on the growing popularity of e-business. Featuring the slogan “i-Business Changes Everything,” Information Builders new strategy focuses on two key issues in e-business, data integration and business intelligence. “i-Business is having a better understanding of [a company’s] business processes and customer,” says Michael Corcoran, VP of Corporate Marketing at Information Builders. “It’s a way for companies to distinguish themselves in e-business.”

The new strategy is built around two products, Enterprise Data Access (EDA) middleware and WebFOCUS. EDA helps companies tie in new e-commerce packages with traditional systems. WebFOCUS leverages the Internet, intranets and extranets to instantly give users access to the information they need. There are various products within each family to meet the needs of a full range of customers.

“i-Business means integrating and leveraging every critical piece of a corporation’s data regardless of origin and delivering it over the Web as valuable and usable information,” says Gerald Cohen, Information Builders president and CEO. “This information can then be easily accessed and shared by employees, customers and business partners around the world.”

In anticipation of its new strategy, Information Builders added seamless integration capabilities to the two products in version 4.2.1, which came out in the third quarter of 1999. “They could co-exist before, but now it’s seamless integration that saves time and money,” says Corcoran. “The products are still independent of each other, but typically, both products will be chosen by customers.”

For Information Builders, the shift in focus comes after a time in which the company found itself without an identity. “We started off doing a little soul searching at the beginning of 1999,” says Corcoran. “We found ourselves building tools in various markets and a lot of people out there didn’t know who we were and what direction we were going, especially since we are a private company. After doing some research, we came to realize that we had to brand ourselves under one corporate identity.”

In the end, Information Builders decided to focus its efforts on i-business for a number of reasons. The biggest was the need for companies to better understand their customers and the ability for a company to be able to adjust to the changes that e-business brings, says Corcoran. “Companies need to have a better understanding of their entire operation,” he says, specifically mentioning the nightmare stories of new online companies not being able to ship products on time during the holiday season. “They have to understand how much volume they can handle, how quickly they can deliver products, things of that nature. From an intelligence side, analytical operations used to be an afterthought, but we think organizations will prioritize them now. These online companies have to not only understand what their customers are buying but also what they might be buying if they want to stay competitive.”

Companies such as Sony Corp. and Microsoft have already taken advantage of Information Builders’ i-business products. “We’re a perfect example of i-business in action,” says Gary Fischer, manager of strategic services for Sony Corp. “When we needed to access inventory information on 11,000 products distributed by more than 20 warehouses and generate Web-based reports on this data, Information Builders had the solution. Thanks to the combined strength of Information Builders’ EDA enterprise integration and WebFOCUS business intelligence technologies, we now have 1,100 people using their browsers to access inventory information and generate daily reports based on their individual needs.”

Although Information Builders will continue to sell their other product lines, Corcoran says almost all of its marketing efforts will be focused on EDA and WebFOCUS. He also added that they would be looking at ways to enhance their core competency by integrating some of the products as add-ons to WebFOCUS and EDA.

Near the end of March, Information Builders will be releasing WebFOCUS 4.3, its first fully functional native version for the AS/400. Version 4.3 will also include a manage reporting environment as well as report brokers for the first time. A new version of EDA, which also runs on the AS/400, will be available near the end of March.

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